WBEZ | Michelle Obama http://www.wbez.org/tags/michelle-obama Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Is School Food Too Healthful? http://www.wbez.org/sections/food/school-food-too-healthful-114638 <p><p>If you&rsquo;re tuned into the fights in Washington over school food these days, you might think students are eating nothing but lentils and kale.</p><p>Last week, the Senate agricultural committee voted to ease 2010 standards (limiting salt and requiring more whole grains) backed by Michelle Obama&rsquo;s &ldquo;Let&rsquo;s Move&rdquo; campaign. And later this year, the House of Representatives is expected to propose similar changes.</p><p>So that got me wondering: Have the new rules really changed school food that much?&nbsp; And what do the most popular entrees look like here in Obama&rsquo;s home district?</p><p>Despite six months of requests, Chicago Public Schools officials have refused to let me see a cafeteria. But I&rsquo;ve talked to lots of students about what they&rsquo;re eating, and then I went the official route with a Freedom of Information Act request to CPS for the top entreés it serves.</p><p>Turns out both efforts got the same answer. The top three dishes served in the district are--by far--highly processed, heat and serve chicken patties, cheeseburgers, and pizza.&nbsp; And that&rsquo;s under the nutrition rules considered overly strict by a lot of Washington lawmakers.&nbsp;</p><p>I also FOIAd ingredients for each item. They didn&rsquo;t look overly strict and healthful to me, but I wanted to be sure. So I took them to Dawn Jackson Blatner, a registered dietician and author.&nbsp; Blatner said she was impressed by the partial use of whole grain flour in the buns and chicken patty. She also approved of the fat grams in the burger and chicken dish. But that&rsquo;s pretty much where her admiration ended. Blatner didn&#39;t like the meat fillers (soy protein concentrate) in the &quot;chicken&quot; and &quot;beef.&quot; And, generally, she said the foods violated a rule she calls &ldquo;cut the CRAP.&rdquo;</p><p>CRAP&rsquo;s an acronym for Chemicals you don&rsquo;t cook with at home, Refined sugars, Artificial flavors and sweeteners and Preservatives.</p><p>&ldquo;So do I see CRAP in all of this?&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;Absolutely. Those are, to me, red flags that this is processed foods and definitely not something that should be an everyday occasion for anybody of any age.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><p>Yet most of those entrees are being served every day to high schoolers and several times a week to grade school kids.</p><p>Chicago chef Sam Kass led the First Lady&rsquo;s Let&rsquo;s Move health and nutrition campaign that championed the 2010 rules.<br /><br />I asked if Chicago&rsquo;s Top 3 list of chicken patties, pizza and cheeseburgers surprise him:</p><p>&ldquo;No that doesn&rsquo;t surprise me,&rdquo; he said.&nbsp; &ldquo;I think what we know about that cheese pizza is that the crust is whole grain and the same with the bun of the burger. There is a lot less sodium and fat in the cheese and pizza.&rdquo;<br /><br />Still, these aren&rsquo;t the dishes Kass was dreaming of when he pushed for the rules six&nbsp; years ago.</p><p>&ldquo;Obviously the goal is to get our kids foods that are minimally processed and that are really healthy for them. So yes would I love to see just a chicken breast as opposed to a highly processed patty with lots of stuff in it. Of course. And a lot of districts are already doing it.&rdquo;<br />&nbsp;&nbsp;<br />These other districts are in places like Washington DC,&nbsp; New York and Oakland, Cal.,&nbsp; where pilot programs are helping kids swap processed meals for freshly cooked food.<br /><br />It&rsquo;s worth noting that Chicago schools also do some fresh cooking. Local cooks make things like broccoli and other vegetables. But, as part of a weird district rule, they&rsquo;re forbidden from ever using even a crystal of salt on that food. Intentionally or not, this ends up leaving a lot more room for salt in the processed foods--without blowing the federal limits on sodium per meal.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<br />&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<br />I asked Kass if he thought this was a bad use of salt overall?<br /><br />&ldquo;Yes,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;For the love of God, salt the broccoli! I think this shows what can come when we do more of the cooking ourselves&hellip; We can dramatically reduce the amount of salt in the burger patty and make sure that broccoli tastes good.&rdquo;</p><p>But moving from processed foods to more scratch cooking isn&rsquo;t easy. Most school food watchers agree it requires, at least, three important elements: school kitchens outfitted with the right equipment, a staff of trained cooks and a strong directive from the top to make the change. In a cash-strapped district like CPS, scratch cooking advocates are unlikely to find those elements.&nbsp;</p><p>While there is some federal funding available for kitchen equipment--including loans and grants specified in the Senate proposal--most agree it&rsquo;s not enough. National funds designated for 2016 school kitchen improvements add up to a mere $30 million. A recent Pew study estimated that it would take $200 million to outfit kitchens for healthier cooking in Illinois alone.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/sodium.jpg" style="height: 367px; width: 620px;" title="Buried in Chicago Public School’s 900 page contract with Aramark is this provision that forbids the use of salt in any meal preparation. Some believe this puts the salt-free vegetables at a disadvantage against the salty highly processed foods that dominate the menu. It also allows the processed food to be served without exceeding federal salt limits for the whole meal. (WBEZ/MONICA ENG)" /></div><p>While rural districts are often able to pull off freshly cooked meals, Diane Pratt-Heavner of the School Nutrition Association says it&rsquo;s tougher in city schools.</p><p>&ldquo;Quite often--especially in urban areas where the cost of labor is high and infrastructure can be old--schools simply don&rsquo;t have the labor or equipment to scratch prepare,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;So they are required to serve pre-prepared items.&rdquo;</p><p>Heavner&rsquo;s group is leading the charge against current rules. The SNA represents school food service managers and is sponsored by big food companies, which she says are there to help.</p><p>&ldquo;Food companies are really working to try to develop cleaner label items and to help schools meet these standards,&rdquo; she said noting that many of the items the companies develop to meet school food rules end up in grocery stores. These include the &ldquo;better for you&rdquo; whole grain, reduced fat Flamin&rsquo; Hot Cheeto.<br />&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<br />Where Congress will eventually come down on salt levels, whole grain percentages and vegetable frequency remains unclear. But what does seem clear is that the current debates are unlikely to get processed foods off the center of the plate in Chicago Public Schools any time soon.</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ food reporter. Email her at meng@wbez.org Follower her <a href="http://twitter.com/monicaeng">@monicaeng</a>.</em></p></p> Fri, 29 Jan 2016 09:56:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/sections/food/school-food-too-healthful-114638 Michelle Obama announces new education push http://www.wbez.org/programs/marketplace/2015-10-19/michelle-obama-announces-new-education-push-113393 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/First%20Lady%20Michelle%20Obama%20attends%20the%20First-Ever%20Citywide%20College%20Signing%20Day%20With%20Get%20Schooled%20And%20Detroit%20College%20Access%20Network%20As%20Part%20Of%20The%20First%20Lady%27s%20Reach%20Higher%20Initiative%20in%20Detroit%2C%20Michigan.jpg" style="height: 362px; width: 620px;" title="First Lady Michelle Obama attends the First-Ever Citywide College Signing Day With Get Schooled And Detroit College Access Network As Part Of The First Lady's Reach Higher Initiative in Detroit, Michigan. (Timothy Hiatt/Getty Images for Get Schooled)" /></div><p>Michelle Obama is continuing her push to get every young person to pursue some form of higher education. At the White House Monday, the First Lady is expected to launch a new public awareness campaign geared toward students aged 14 to 19.</p><p>A new website,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.bettermakeroom.org/" target="_blank">bettermakeroom.org</a>, will let young people post their goals and share pictures, and will point students to resources to help them research and apply to colleges. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;When we define postsecondary success, we do mean a two-year degree, a four-year degree, community college, an industry-recognized certificate or credential,&rdquo; said Eric Waldo, executive director of the first lady&rsquo;s Reach Higher initiative. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s some education past high school.&rdquo;</p><p>Carrie Warick, with the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.collegeaccess.org/" target="_blank">National College Access Network</a>, has seen how students respond to Michelle Obama, who was a first-generation college student herself.</p><p>&ldquo;Having the First Lady, specifically as a woman of color, for our students of color, championing an issue that&rsquo;s so important to them really does have an intangible impact,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>More minority and low-income students are furthering their education after high school, Warick said, but there is still a sizeable&nbsp;<a href="http://www.collegeaccess.org/benchmarkingreport2015" target="_blank">college access gap</a>.</p><p>&mdash;<a href="http://www.marketplace.org/topics/education/michelle-obama-announces-new-education-push" target="_blank"><em> via Marketplace</em></a></p></p> Mon, 19 Oct 2015 10:18:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/marketplace/2015-10-19/michelle-obama-announces-new-education-push-113393 Chicago’s next top chef challenge: Cook for all of CPS http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago%E2%80%99s-next-top-chef-challenge-cook-all-cps-113347 <p><p>Six years ago, chef Paul Kahan got back from a trip to the White House and he was all fired up.</p><p>He was among several top chefs recruited by <a href="https://www.whitehouse.gov/photos-and-video/video/first-lady-michelle-obama-chefs-move-schools-event" target="_blank">First Lady Michelle Obama to use their power and prestige</a> to improve the nation&rsquo;s health through its schools.</p><p>So Kahan (whose restaurants include Blackbird, Big Star and The Publican) invited his community of chef friends to heed the call. They formed a group called Pilot Light, and cooked up some bold ideas in those early days.</p><p>&ldquo;We were going to cook for every kid every day,&rdquo; remembers Lula Cafe chef Jason Hammel. &ldquo;And we were going to be in every classroom and those, of course, were our goals.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;We wanted to do it all right away,&rdquo; Kahan said. &ldquo;We wanted to go into inner city schools...We thought that we could go in and do anything we want and just crush it.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/chefcps.jpg" style="height: 393px; width: 620px;" title="Some of the original chefs in Pilot Light (left to right Della Gossett, Paul Kahan, Justin Large, Ryan Poli, Jason Hammel, Homaro Cantu, Paul Virant and Erick Williams) prepare a tasting of food at Disney II Elementary School in Old Irving Park. (WBEZ/Monica Eng)" /></div><p>But it&rsquo;s the chefs who were crushed when they realized the limited scope of what they could actually do in schools.</p><p>That&rsquo;s because CPS has a single school food contract with Aramark (six years ago it was Chartwells). But only those companies &mdash; and not some idealistic chefs &mdash; get to decide what ends up on students&rsquo; plates.</p><p>Plus, the funding for better food just wasn&rsquo;t there. The money for each tray of food amounted to about $1 per meal, which Kahan calls &ldquo;embarrassing.&rdquo;</p><p>So cooking for every kid was a non-starter. But the chefs were undeterred. So they started with drop-in lessons and occasional tastings at CPS&rsquo;s Disney II School in Old Irving Park, where the principal was willing to give them a shot.</p><p>Six years later, fellow chef Matthias Merges (of Yusho, Billy Sunday and A-10) trumpets their growth.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;We have a curriculum in six schools in six distinct neighborhoods from Englewood and Logan Square to the West Side and Old Irving,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>But that growth is nothing compared to the leap they&rsquo;ll make Thursday. That&rsquo;s when an optional Pilot Light menu and curriculum will be presented in every classroom and cafeteria in the district. So what&rsquo;s on the menu?</p><p>Kahan calls it &ldquo;a very healthy chicken al pastor taco.&rdquo;</p><p>The dish requires marination in a variety of spices and, for CPS lunch, the tacos will be topped with fresh cilantro and a light sprinkle of queso fresco.&nbsp;</p><p>The al pastor taco is a product of Lebanese immigration to Puebla Mexico after the fall of the Ottoman Empire. And the chefs see that history as a rich base for lesson plans.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;You can learn about the spice trade route,&rdquo; Hammel said. &ldquo;You can learn about the economics of that and you can learn about the migration of people from Lebanon to Mexico to Chicago.&rdquo;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/chefcps5.jpg" style="margin-left: 10px; margin-right: 10px; height: 348px; width: 400px; float: left;" title="At one of the first Pilot Light tastings in Disney II Elementary School chefs Paul Kahan and Ryan Poli talk to kids about the tastings they brought for the day. (WBEZ/Monica Eng)" />But how are the kids going to respond? To find out, I asked a gaggle of fourth graders from Mitchell Elementary School in West Town who were at a recent Pilot Light fundraiser. Their school is one of the six where the chefs are working regularly. When told about the special taco lunch, the answers included:</p><p>&ldquo;I want to eat that meal,&rdquo; said Eva.</p><p>&ldquo;Food at school that&rsquo;s not from the lunchroom? Yum,&rdquo; said Gus.</p><p>&nbsp;&ldquo;I think I might faint,&rdquo; joked Devin.</p><p>Fainting is what the chefs almost did when they first calculated the logistics of pulling off this entree for 390,000 students in CPS on one day.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s like 30,000 pounds of cubed chicken meat, over 300 gallons of al pastor sauce,&rdquo; Merges said. &ldquo;The numbers become so big at this level. When we cook in kitchens of our own we&rsquo;re like we can do a dinner of 1,000 but when you get to 300,000 you have to take the parts in pieces from so many different places and it all comes together.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s 5,000 pounds of crumbled Mexican cheese for just a little [sprinkle] on each taco,&rdquo; Kahan added, &ldquo;just to put it in perspective.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;The important part here is that we are reaching hundreds of thousands of kids with a message that learning about food will expand your horizons and your world,&rdquo; Hammel said.</p><p>So will they do it again next year?</p><p>&ldquo;We hope that the 390,000 kids demand it!&rdquo; Merges said.</p><p>Eventually the chefs dream of creating a curriculum that could go nationwide. But for now, they just hope as many students and teachers as possible choose their taco.</p><p>Because after Thursday, it&rsquo;s back to the old lunches &mdash; with no lesson plan included.</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ food and health reporter. Follow her at <a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng">@monicaeng</a> or write to her at <a href="mailto:meng@wbez.org?subject=CPS%20Chefs">meng@wbez.org</a></em></p></p> Wed, 14 Oct 2015 16:37:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago%E2%80%99s-next-top-chef-challenge-cook-all-cps-113347 First lady notes personal struggles in Chicago graduation http://www.wbez.org/news/first-lady-notes-personal-struggles-chicago-graduation-112168 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/michelleobama.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><em>Updated 5:47 a.m.</em></p><p>First lady Michelle Obama drew on her hometown connections and personal struggles from college and the White House Tuesday during a Chicago high school graduation speech to the classmates of an honor student gunned down in 2013 near the Obama family home.</p><p>A boisterous crowd of thousands attended the commencement ceremony for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. College Preparatory High School, a school that garnered headlines when teenager Hadiya Pendleton was fatally shot on the way home from class. Days earlier she had been in Washington, D.C., to perform with her drill team during President Barack Obama&#39;s second term inauguration festivities.</p><p>Pendleton would have graduated Tuesday. A chair &mdash; draped in purple fabric, her favorite color; a feather boa; and a bouquet of flowers &mdash; was reserved in her honor among her cap-and-gown-clad classmates. Her family was presented with an engraved class ring.</p><p>&quot;Hadiya&#39;s memory is truly a blessing and an inspiration to me and my husband, and to people across this country and around the world,&quot; Obama, dressed in a graduation gown, told the crowd. She went on to say, &quot;I know that many of you are thinking about Hadiya right now and feeling the hole that she&#39;s left in your hearts.&quot;</p><p>The first lady, who attended Pendleton&#39;s 2013 funeral, told students she understood the issues they faced because she experienced some firsthand growing up in Chicago.</p><p>&quot;I was born and raised here on the South Side &mdash; in South Shore &mdash; and I am who I am today because of this community,&quot; Obama said. &quot;I know the struggles many of you face: how you walk the long way home to avoid the gangs; how you fight to concentrate on your homework when there&#39;s too much noise at home; how you keep it together when your family&#39;s having a hard time making ends meet.&quot;</p><p>She said the South Side students were tasked with the responsibilities of changing &quot;skewed&quot; narratives about their communities, and would encounter people along the way who would doubt them. She said students could change things by what they say, do and how they carry themselves.</p><p>&quot;That&#39;s a burden that President Obama and I proudly carry every single day in the White House, because we know that everything we do and say can either confirm the myths about folks like us &mdash; or it can change those myths,&quot; she said.</p><p>The commencement speech before roughly 2,500 people at Chicago State University was among three the first lady has recently given. She spoke last month at Tuskegee University in Alabama and Oberlin College in Ohio.</p><p>King was chosen from about 200 schools that submitted videos after a challenge issued by the first lady last fall. Schools had to show commitment to college mentoring and financial aid help. King&#39;s video featured a spoof on the ABC program &quot;Scandal.&quot; The show&#39;s cast members sent a surprise video back acknowledging the school&#39;s win, which was played to the crowd and met with cheers.</p><p>The first lady also advised students to ask for help, something she learned while a Princeton University student in the 1980s when she felt &quot;totally overwhelmed and out of place.&quot;</p><p>&quot;If Hadiya&#39;s friends and family could survive the heartbreak and pain; if they could found organizations to honor her unfulfilled dreams; if they could inspire folks across this country to wear orange in protest to gun violence,&quot; she said, &quot;then I know you all can live your life with the same determination and joy that Hadiya lived her life. I know you all can dig deep and keep on fighting to fulfill your own dreams.&quot;</p></p> Tue, 09 Jun 2015 16:04:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/first-lady-notes-personal-struggles-chicago-graduation-112168 Michelle Obama highlights kids, gun violence http://www.wbez.org/news/michelle-obama-highlights-kids-gun-violence-108154 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/AP507375268523_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>WASHINGTON &mdash; A second term as first lady finds Michelle Obama using her spotlight to draw attention to another issue involving the welfare of children: young people and gun violence.</p><p>A meeting with high school students from a rough neighborhood in her hometown of Chicago led Mrs. Obama to start putting a new spin on the stalled legislative debate over access to guns.</p><p>A mother to a teen and a tween, Mrs. Obama says the country is obligated to help kids like these grow up and become adults. Several current and former students at Chicago&#39;s Harper High School were killed by gunfire within the past year.</p><p>The first lady on Tuesday faced immigration &mdash; another new issue for her &mdash; when she delivered the keynote speech in New Orleans at the annual conference of the National Council of La Raza. Immigration is one of President Barack Obama&#39;s top second-term priorities, as it is for the Latino advocacy group.</p><p>Mrs. Obama urged the group&#39;s members to stay encouraged and continue to press the House to follow the lead of the Senate and pass an immigration bill.</p><p>&quot;Do not give up because I promise you my husband won&#39;t give up until a good bill gets on his desk,&quot; she said.</p><p>Aides say the first lady isn&#39;t making gun violence a new and distinct issue, but is folding it into the work she&#39;s been doing to encourage youth to focus on getting an education.</p><p>By reaching beyond the pair of relatively safe issues she has been pushing &mdash; reducing childhood obesity, which she discussed at length at the La Raza conference, and rallying public support for military families &mdash; the Harvard-trained lawyer who some say has played it safe is showing a willingness to step outside of her comfort zone.</p><p>She&#39;ll need to tread carefully, though. The American public tends to prefer that its first ladies leave the heavier policy lifting to the president.</p><p>Rosalynn Carter was criticized for attending Cabinet meetings and Hillary Rodham Clinton was pilloried for running a health care task force in secret. Mrs. Obama is viewed favorably by about two-thirds of the public, higher than her husband, who had a favorability rating of about 53 percent, according to recent polls.</p><p>Mrs. Obama fell out of public favor during the 2008 presidential campaign over comments deemed unpatriotic. But once in the White House, she declared herself &quot;mom in chief&quot; to her two kids, planted a vegetable garden, pushed the childhood obesity and military family issues and resurrected her public standing.</p><p>At three fundraisers one day in May, in Boston and New York, Mrs. Obama described meeting some of Harper High&#39;s &quot;best and brightest&quot; students, including the valedictorian, a star athlete and ROTC participants.</p><p>But instead of &quot;reveling in the joys of their youth,&quot; like college applications, the prom or learning to drive, she told Democratic donors that &quot;these young people were consumed with staying alive.&quot;</p><p>&quot;There are so many kids in this country just like them, kids with so much promise, but so few opportunities, good kids who are doing everything they can to break the cycle and beat the odds,&quot; Mrs. Obama said. &quot;We need to be better for them. We need to be better for all of our children in this country because they are counting on us to give them the chances they need for the futures they all deserve.&quot;</p><p>The students worry daily about being killed or about someone else being killed, she said.</p><p>&quot;One kid told me he felt like he lived in a cage, because he feels like his community is unseen, unheard, and nobody cares about it. What&#39;s our obligation to these kids? We do have one,&quot; she told CBS &quot;Sunday Morning.&quot;</p><p>The meeting with Harper High&#39;s students followed the first lady&#39;s speech at a youth violence conference in Chicago this year. Mrs. Obama compared herself to Hadiya Pendleton, a 15-year-old honor student whose death became national news in part because she was shot a mile from the Obamas&#39; home a few days after she returned from performing at the president&#39;s inauguration.</p><p>It is unclear whether Mrs. Obama will continue to speak about gun violence or immigration. The speech to La Raza is likely her final public event before she takes her traditional month off in August.</p><p>She recently said first ladies, more than presidents, &quot;get to work on what we&#39;re passionate about.&quot;</p><p>&quot;You have an opportunity to speak to your passions and to really design and be very strategic about the issues you care most about,&quot; Mrs. Obama said at a recent forum in Tanzania with African first ladies. &quot;And I just found it just a very freeing and liberating opportunity.&quot;</p></p> Tue, 23 Jul 2013 13:44:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/michelle-obama-highlights-kids-gun-violence-108154 First lady visit highlights Chicago job program http://www.wbez.org/news/first-lady-visit-highlights-chicago-job-program-108104 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/AP507375268523.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>First Lady Michelle Obama gave words of wisdom Thursday to a group of Chicago high school students involved in a work readiness program.</p><p>The teens are a part of nonprofit Urban Alliance, a program that Amy Rule, wife of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, supports. The program opened a branch in Chicago last fall and helps under-resourced youth with internships.</p><p>The news media were allowed in briefly to get a snippet of the conversation. One young woman who graduated from Dunbar High School approached the mic. She&rsquo;ll be attending Trinity College in Connecticut come fall.</p><p>&ldquo;Just knowing the challenges that come with being an African-American woman and low-income living and being admitted to a school where the majority of students are from the opposite end of the spectrum. What words of wisdom would you have?&rdquo; she asked the First Lady.</p><p>Obama responded that she embraces and is proud of her South Side Chicago roots.</p><p>&ldquo;I can clearly relate because growing up on the South Side and then one minute on 74th and Euclid the next minute in a dorm room at Princeton University,&rdquo; Obama said. &ldquo;The thing that got me through is what got me when which was finding my base of support there.&rdquo;</p><p>And then the reporters were quickly shuttled out of the room.</p></p> Thu, 18 Jul 2013 12:25:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/first-lady-visit-highlights-chicago-job-program-108104 Even the most successful black women are not 'good enough' http://www.wbez.org/blogs/britt-julious/2013-06/even-most-successful-black-women-are-not-good-enough-107881 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/AP124216093615%20%281%29.jpg" title="Yosra El-Essawy/Invision/AP" /></div><p dir="ltr">You&rsquo;re not good enough and you never will be and we need to remind you of this again and again. Do not get comfortable. What you&rsquo;ve done matters little. For every act is just an act, existing in a vacuum, not representative of the whole, or even a part of who you think you are.</p><p dir="ltr">This is what I imagine is being said to someone like Beyonce or Rihanna or Michelle Obama by the media and by society at large. It might not be said explicitly, but it is implied forcefully and continuously. They are three of the most visible black female public figures and they are three of the most controversial. Controversy, I realize now, is largely a manufactured tool, one that is used to control the narratives of the people around us. And the narrative of the black woman &ndash; public or not &ndash; rarely changes: you will not be good enough. Do not forget.</p><p dir="ltr">Regardless of what Beyonce or Rihanna or Michelle Obama does, they will get criticized for their actions. To the public, there is no such thing as a good or respectable black woman. They are women who are almost &ldquo;good,&rdquo; but not quite. The ways in which society tries to find and develop these characteristics of &ldquo;bad&rdquo; rarely differ from figure to figure.</p><p dir="ltr">All of their actions are up for debate, even when they are personal and non-threatening. What has Beyonce done but work hard to be the best performer she could possibly be? Well, for one they say, she is not a good enough feminist. One of my friends said that she was uncomfortable with the fact that Beyonce named her tour &ldquo;The Mrs. Carter Tour.&rdquo; But why is a woman&rsquo;s feminist cred eliminated because she changed her last name? Why do personal decisions that threaten no one eradicate one&rsquo;s support of equality between the sexes?</p><p dir="ltr">My mother changed her last name and I can&rsquo;t think of a better representation of feminism lived in the everyday world. Her strength, her work effort, her words about hard work and personal achievement, the visibility of shared responsibility &hellip; all of these things led me to feminism before I knew what that was.</p><p dir="ltr">Beyonce is not a good feminist. She is not feminist at all. This is what they say. A recent <a href="http://msmagazine.com/blog/2013/05/16/beyonce-rocks-the-cover-of-ms/" target="_blank"><em>Ms.</em> magazine article</a> fueled the flames not for what it said about Beyonce&rsquo;s feminism, but because anything was said at all. <a href="https://www.facebook.com/msmagazine/posts/10151597253413540" target="_blank">Readers</a> were upset that anyone could try to relate the two. Beyonce is not a feminist because she dresses &ldquo;provocatively.&rdquo; Beyonce is not a feminist because she changes her last name, because she shows vulnerability, because she is proud of her motherhood and her marriage. Beyonce is not a feminist because she is not what a feminist looks like. She is not a feminist because we say she is not. If we seek to promote the value in feminism and challenge the negative connotations of feminism in the public eye, tearing down a performer who speaks openly about women doing right for themselves, who literally called herself a feminist, does more harm than good.</p><p dir="ltr">When I see Michelle Obama on the screen, I see a woman like the women I grew up around. She is poised and beautiful and intelligent. She is also real. There is an argument to be made about the decorum of the First Lady, but I don&rsquo;t think Obama has ever questioned this.</p><p dir="ltr"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/AP202679480534.jpg" style="float: left; height: 375px; width: 250px;" title="(AP/Abdeljalil Bounhar)" />Perhaps it is because she exists not as a wallflower, but as a powerhouse that we are threatened by an&nbsp;<a href="http://www.cnn.com/2013/01/22/politics/michelle-obama-eye-roll" target="_blank">eye roll</a>. Perhaps because she is literal strength that we find her reaction to a&nbsp;<a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jun/09/michelle-obama-heckler-handled-badly" target="_blank">heckler</a>&nbsp;as a wrong. As an outsider, these reactions shock me. Why are we upset that Obama reacts? What do we expect of her?</p><p dir="ltr">As an insider (an insider of the black female experience), they do not. Black women can&rsquo;t show their cards. If you have achieved something, the only way to continue rising is to keep one&#39;s head down. Opinions? Emotions? Reflections? Please! Take a seat!</p><p dir="ltr">In a recent, ridiculous story for the UK&#39;s <em>Daily Mail</em>, Liz Jones <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2347680/Rihannas-toxic-role-model-army-young-fans-says-LIZ-JONES.html" target="_blank">chastised</a> Rihanna for not acting as a perfect role model. Ignore the fact that one of the most consistent things about the singer is that she refuses the label of &quot;role model.&quot; Why do we expect this of her at all? Why is she not allowed to live her life as she chooses? Yes, she has young fans. But why do we act as if good parenting is no longer a viable option in preventing our children from &quot;bad&quot; influences? If we are to talk about the actions of pop stars, why is Rihanna criticized more than her peer, Lady Gaga, who too <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/08/27/lady-gaga-drugs-inspired-_n_696842.html" target="_blank">speaks openly</a> about drug use and recklessness? There exists a double standard, one that has become abundantly clear.</p><p dir="ltr">There exists, in the life of a black woman, public or not, the notion that the other shoe will drop. You are waiting for the challenge, the comeuppance, the moment in which others will tell you who you are and how you should live. This extends to the general female experience, too, and the Other experience as a whole. The other shoe waits. You wait.</p><p dir="ltr">This is why our interpersonal bonds are so important and public. I&rsquo;m remembering a man who said that black women are catty. That made no sense to me. The ease in which I build friendships with women who look like me cannot be explained. But perhaps there is the reality of what we must face and what we have been told. One can never overstate the importance of knowing your stories and feelings are important and true.</p><p dir="ltr">I am reminded of what my parents &ndash; my mother in particular &ndash; used to say: You will have to work twice as hard to get half as far. You do not always have the luxury to dress down, to not always be your best, to mess up. Any sign of weakness, of humanity, is a reinforcement of stereotypes we have yet to eradicate. I did not know this to be true then, but I understand it now. The world reveals itself.</p><div><em>Britt Julious blogs about culture in and outside of Chicago. Follow Britt&#39;s essays for&nbsp;<a href="http://wbez.tumblr.com/" target="_blank">WBEZ&#39;s Tumblr</a>&nbsp;or on Twitter&nbsp;<a href="http://twitter.com/britticisms" target="_blank">@britticisms</a>.</em></div></p> Thu, 27 Jun 2013 10:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/britt-julious/2013-06/even-most-successful-black-women-are-not-good-enough-107881 Harper High School kids meet the president: 'My whole body just got weak' http://www.wbez.org/news/harper-high-school-kids-meet-president-my-whole-body-just-got-weak-107599 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/harper-crop.jpg" title="Mayor Rahm Emanuel met with students Friday morning, just after they returned from their trip to the White House. (WBEZ/Linda Lutton)" /></div><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F95926861" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>A bus full of students and staff from Harper High School returned to Chicago Friday morning from a visit to the White House. They were invited by First Lady Michelle Obama and got to meet the President as well.</p><p>The First Lady took an interest in the students after <a href="http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/487/harper-high-school-part-one">This American Life</a> aired <a href="http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/488/harper-high-school-part-two">episodes </a>about how the school has been dealing with gun violence in the Englewood neighborhood. Mrs. Obama <a href="http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-04-11/news/chi-first-lady-michelle-obama-to-visit-harper-high-20130409_1_michelle-obama-first-lady-gun-violence">met with them in Chicago in April</a>, then invited the students to her house.</p><p>&nbsp;Many of the students who went on the trip were featured in WBEZ&rsquo;s <em>This American Life </em>episodes:</p><p>Deonte, the student who has avoided street violence by staying inside the house all the time; &nbsp;</p><p>Antoryio, who has been shot at so often he has a strategy--he drops to the ground;</p><p>Thomas, who&rsquo;s seen multiple friends and family members shot and killed, including <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/education/weight-citys-violence-one-school-principal-100699">Harper student Shakaki Asphy</a>, who was gunned down a year ago this month.</p><p>Ten Harper High staff members were also along on the 15-hour coach bus ride to D.C.</p><p>Mayor Rahm Emanuel stopped by the South Side school Friday morning, joining in on the national attention being paid to Harper kids.</p><p>Meeting the president was the highlight of the trip, one boy told Emanuel.</p><p>&ldquo;As soon as he said, &lsquo;Hey, Harper!&rsquo; my whole body just got weak!&rdquo; he recounted.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/harper2.jpg" style="float: right;" title="Senior Cameron Littlejohn got his school uniform autographed by First Lady Michelle Obama. (WBEZ/Linda Lutton)" />The students said they were given a &ldquo;deluxe tour,&rdquo; introduced to everybody, from secret service agents to the White House chef. In addition to meeting with the president for 45 minutes privately, they got a shout out from him at an event with the Baltimore Ravens football team.</p><p>Harper Principal Leonetta Sanders says she appreciates that the First Lady has turned more of her attention to the issue of urban gun violence in recent months, and has made an effort to get to know Harper students.</p><p>&ldquo;She wanted to really just have a deep conversation with them, one-on-one, and just really hear their stories. But also, at the same time, to encourage students to keep going,&rdquo; Sanders said.</p><p>Many kids came home on a first-name basis with the president and First Lady, referring simply to &ldquo;Barack&rdquo; and &ldquo;Michelle.&rdquo;</p><p>Junior Sandelio Wright, who&rsquo;s been shot at on his walk to school, &nbsp;said he was moved by the whole trip, especially a night visit to the Lincoln Memorial. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;I was standing at the exact same spot where Martin Luther King did his speech, seeing the view that he saw. And it was gorgeous. It was reflecting off the water. And just knowing that he was standing right there talking to a million people. It was beautiful. I got a picture in my phone.&rdquo;</p><p>The Harper students also visited Howard University, where they met a student from their neighborhood who&rsquo;s now a Rhodes scholar working on her PhD.</p><p>The trip was paid for through donations collected by Chuck Smith, a Chicago attorney at the Skadden law firm. Smith had heard This American Life&rsquo;s reporting on Harper and was asked by Mayor Emanuel to raise money for the trip.</p><p>Principal Sanders, who has an unshakably positive outlook, hopes things like this trip--and the attention to her school--might slowly change the violence that has sent her to funeral after funeral for slain teenagers.</p><p>&ldquo;That&rsquo;s why we took a variety of students,&rdquo; said Sanders. &ldquo;We took <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/harper-high-boasts-two-gates-millennium-scholars-despite-school%E2%80%99s-struggle-violence-106785">Gates Scholars</a>, but at the same time we took some challenged students, who are in gangs and who are not on the right path. And what we hope to do is that we change those students to go another direction.&rdquo;</p><p>Sanders&rsquo; broader hope is that by changing students, they can change the neighborhood where those students are growing up.</p><p><em style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 22px;">Linda Lutton is an education reporter at WBEZ. Follow her&nbsp;<a href="http://www.twitter.com/WBEZeducation" style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: inherit; font-size: inherit; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; line-height: inherit; vertical-align: baseline; text-decoration: none; color: rgb(0, 104, 150); outline: 0px;">@WBEZeducation</a></em></p></p> Fri, 07 Jun 2013 18:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/harper-high-school-kids-meet-president-my-whole-body-just-got-weak-107599 First Lady to urge Chicago business leaders to invest in youth http://www.wbez.org/news/first-lady-urge-chicago-business-leaders-invest-youth-106580 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/FLOTUS2.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>In a passionate plea to the private sector, First Lady Michelle Obama returned to her hometown Wednesday to help raise money for anti-violence youth programs.</p><p>At a downtown Chicago luncheon with 800 civic and business leaders, Obama urged them to contribute to a $50 million public safety campaign led by Mayor Rahm Emanuel.</p><p>The First Lady grew up in South Shore and said the issue of violence is &ldquo;personal.&rdquo; She recounted her working-class family roots and how recent gun murders have touched her emotionally.</p><p>Obama recalled meeting with the friends and parents of Hadiya Pendleton - the King College Prep High School student killed days after performing at the presidential inauguration and a mile away from Obama&rsquo;s Kenwood home.</p><p>&ldquo;As I visited with the Pendleton family at Hadiya&rsquo;s funeral, I couldn&rsquo;t get over how familiar they felt to me.</p><p>Because what I realized was Hadiya&rsquo;s family was just like my family. Hadiya Pendleton was me and I was her,&rdquo; said Obama as her voice cracked. &ldquo;But I got to grow up.&rdquo;</p><p>Well-heeled members of The Commercial Club of Chicago, Economic Club of Chicago, The Executives&rsquo; Club of Chicago and World Business Chicago attended the luncheon. So far, $33 million has been raised. The money is supposed to go to at-risk youth programs, community building strategies and an innovation fund for new programs. All this would be administered over a five-year period by The Chicago Community Trust.</p><p>&ldquo;What it takes to build strong, successful young people isn&rsquo;t genetics, pedigree or good luck, it&rsquo;s opportunity and I know from my own experience, I started out with exactly the same aptitude, exactly the same intellectual, emotional capabilities as so many of my peers,&rdquo; Obama said. She added that the business community has a moral obligation to help local youth.</p><p>&ldquo;This is going to take a serious and sustained investment over a very long period of time,&rdquo; Obama said. &ldquo;This is forever.&rdquo;</p><p>After her speech, Obama visited a high school in Englewood, a neighborhood marred by gunplay and poverty. Harper High School was the subject of an earlier&nbsp;<a href="http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/487/harper-high-school-part-one">documentary</a>&nbsp;by WBEZ&#39;s &ldquo;This American Life.&rdquo; Twenty-nine current and former Harper students were shot last year.</p><p>Obama told students the best thing they could do in life &quot;is really be serious about education.&quot;</p><p>The mayor said if the city can rally around NATO, the Olympics bid, Millennium Park and Maggie Daley Park, it can rally around children.</p><p>When Emanuel announced the $50 million fundraising goal earlier this year, he put Allstate Chief Executive Officer Tom Wilson and Loop Capital Chief Executive Officer James Reynolds in charge.</p><p>&ldquo;I can honestly say I have never been more excited about any effort or initiative I&rsquo;ve been a part of. The lives we save, the lives we change will ultimately be the test of how well this community responds to its moral duty,&rdquo; said Reynolds, an Englewood native.</p><p>T.J. Crawford is project coordinator for the Black Youth Project and said the mayor&rsquo;s $50 million initiative needs to address systemic issues.</p><p>&ldquo;[It] will be beneficial only if they do something outside of the box that I haven&rsquo;t seen him do before: Work directly with community organizations and individuals that have real relationship to our community&rsquo;s youth and sometimes violent perpetrators to enhance their capacity and support mechanisms to do the work that they have already dedicated their lives to doing,&rdquo; Crawford said. &ldquo;It seems we fall in the trap of being able to properly report, quantify and qualify how dollars are being spent without investing in the human capital that is needed to actually create the change we seek. &ldquo;</p><p><em>Natalie Moore is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/natalieymoore" target="_blank">@natalieymoore</a>.</em></p><p>A White House Pool report contributed to this story.</p></p> Wed, 10 Apr 2013 08:28:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/first-lady-urge-chicago-business-leaders-invest-youth-106580 Michelle Obama to Chicago kids: 'I am you' http://www.wbez.org/news/michelle-obama-chicago-kids-i-am-you-105794 <p><p>Imagine students learning their ABCs while dancing, or memorizing multiplication tables while doing jumping jacks.</p><p>Some schools are using both methods of instruction, and Michelle Obama would like to see more of them use other creative ways to help students get the recommended hour of daily exercise.</p><p>In Chicago Thursday, the first lady announced a new public-private partnership to help schools do just that. &quot;Let&#39;s Move Active Schools&quot; starts with a website, www.letsmoveschools.org , where school officials and others can sign up to get started.</p><p>Mrs. Obama said too many penny-pinched schools have either cut spending on physical education or eliminated it outright to put the money toward classroom instruction. But the first lady who starts most days with a workout &mdash; and other advocates of helping today&#39;s largely sedentary kids move their bodies &mdash; say that&#39;s a false choice, since studies that show exercise helps youngsters focus and do well in school.</p><p>The effort is one of the newest parts of Mrs. Obama&#39;s 3-year-old campaign against childhood obesity, known as &quot;Let&#39;s Move,&quot; which she has spent the week promoting.</p><p>&quot;With each passing year, schools feel like it&#39;s just getting harder to find the time, the money and the will to help our kids be active. But just because it&#39;s hard doesn&#39;t mean we should stop trying,&quot; the first lady said. &quot;It means we should try harder. It means that all of us &mdash; not just educators, but businesses and nonprofits and ordinary citizens &mdash; we all need to dig a little deeper, start getting more creative.&quot;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/all.jpg" style="float: left; height: 200px; width: 300px;" title="Michelle Obama with athletes and kids in Chicago. (WBEZ/Andrew Gill)" /></div><p>She was joined at McCormick Place in her hometown by several Olympians, including gymnasts Dominique Dawes and Gabby Douglas, sprinter Allyson Felix, tennis player Serena Williams and decathlete Ashton Eaton, along with San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and triathlete Sarah Reinertsen, whose left leg was amputated above the knee when she was a child, and other athletes. Thousands of students from city middle schools also were being brought in for the event.</p><p>Research shows that daily exercise has a positive influence on academic performance, but kids today spend too much time sitting, mostly in school but also outside the classroom while watching TV, playing video games or surfing the Internet. Federal guidelines recommend that children ages 6-17 get at least 60 minutes of exercise daily, which can be racked up through multiple spurts of activity throughout the day.</p><p>The White House says the most current data, from 2007, shows that just 4 percent of elementary schools, 8 percent of middle schools and 2 percent of high schools provided daily physical education.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/arneduncan.jpg" style="float: right; height: 450px; width: 300px;" title="Arne Duncan (WBEZ/Andrew Gill)" />Education Secretary Arne Duncan said he&#39;s proof of the link between exercise and academic performance. As a boy, he said, he had a hard time sitting still in class but that exercise helped him focus.</div><p>&quot;What&#39;s true for me is true for many of our nation&#39;s children,&quot; he said in an interview.</p><p>Duncan, who played basketball professionally in Australia, said the choice is not between physical activity or academics, especially with about one-third of U.S. kids either overweight or obese and at higher risk for life-threatening illnesses like heart disease or diabetes.</p><p>&quot;It&#39;s got to be both,&quot; he said. Duncan cited the examples of students learning the alphabet while dancing or memorizing multiplication tables while doing jumping jacks.</p><p>Mrs. Obama called on school staff, families and communities to help get 50,000 schools, about half the number of public schools in the U.S., involved in the program over the next five years.</p><p>The President&#39;s Council on Fitness, Sports &amp; Nutrition, the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation &amp; Dance, and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation will oversee the program. Funding and other resources will come from Nike Inc., the GENYOUth Foundation, ChildObesity180, Kaiser Permanente and the General Mills Foundation.</p><p>Under the new initiative, modest grants will be available from the Education Department to help some programs get started. The GENYOUth Foundation and ChildObesity180 also will be awarding grants.</p><p>Nike has committed $50 million to the effort over the next five years; the remaining groups together have pledged more than $20 million.</p><p>Williams said it&#39;s important to structure the activity so that it doesn&#39;t feel like a workout.</p><p>&quot;I had fun and I didn&#39;t realize it was work,&quot; she said about her years of practice before becoming one of America&#39;s top tennis players.</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="349" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/FDqi4YzCYcw?rel=0" width="620"></iframe></p></p> Wed, 27 Feb 2013 17:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/michelle-obama-chicago-kids-i-am-you-105794